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Lindsey Stirling—hip hop violinist

Lindsey Stirling is 24, from Gilbert, Ariz. and a senior at BYU studying therapeutic recreation. Last year she was on the national hit TV show America’s Got Talent for her hip hop violin, and made it to the top ten. Find out more about her at www.lindseystirlingviolin.com.

So how long have you been playing the Violin?
I’ve played forever, 18 ½ years.

How did you get started?
When I was little kid, my parents really liked music and we only had a record player.
My mom and dad would play these records of classical music and my brothers and sisters and I would run around the house and dance to Mozart and Beethoven. They would also take us to free concerts in the park in LA where I grew up and I would watch the violin and be amazed because it went really fast.
At the age of 5 I started begging my parents to play the violin. I would say ‘please, please.’ Finally after a year of begging they could afford  a 15 minute lesson every other week. Almost everyone would never do a lesson every other week, but one girl agreed to it.

Playing the violin to hip hop is very unique. Tell me about how you started to combine the two?
I played classical music first, and then in high school I joined a rock band and played the electric violin to rock songs.
Then all of my band members went away on LDS missions so I needed some more creative outlets.
Long story short, I sent a video to Ellen de Generes to perform on her show and one of their producers called me back and said I bet I could get you on the show if you did hip hop.
So I wrote my first hip hop song and I upped my dance moves. I actually didn’t end up on the show but it’s just funny that that video went viral, got thousands of views and that’s why I got to go on Americas Got Talent.
It’s ironic-you get a lot of rejection but every time you put yourself out there someone is going to see you, even if it’s not who you intended. They actually did contact me back way later—but it was about a month before my mission and I told them I couldn’t make it. It was obviously not meant to be at the time.

How did you decide to try out for America’s Got Talent?
One of their producers saw one of my YouTube videos and they messaged me.
We think you are really fun and we would love to have you come and audition. We think you would have a good chance of being on the show.
I thought about it and prayed about it and I thought if I don’t try this I am always going to wonder what if? So I bought a plane ticket and flew to LA on a whim.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a frivolous person. But I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I was shocked that I made it past the first round, past the second round, past the third round and so on.

What was it like to be next to the celebrity judges?
We never saw them except when we came out to perform on the stage. We didn’t see them backstage.
It was kind of surreal to see them. I’ve watched the show before and it was weird to walk out on stage and see them standing out in front of me. I’ve experienced it vicariously through TV so many times.

You performed at the Lakers vs. Jazz game on Friday. How was that?
It was really, really fun. I realized this is by far the biggest crowd I have performed in front of.
On America’s Got Talent there were 11 million viewers nationwide but the in house audience was small, only about 200 people. Last night was a sold out game of 20,000 people. There was tons of energy of energy in the room and the crowd was pumped up and excited. They responded really well to it and it was also really fun because I hired two backup dancers to perform with me

What other experiences or opportunities have you had because of your fame from America’s Got Talent?
It has taken me on some adventures. I got to go to Chicago and played there, I got to play a show at the MGM in Vegas. I’ve had lots of random shows. I also have been able to write songs and put them on Itunes.
More than anything though, for the first time I am being able to live the dream. I never thought I could make a living doing something that I love so much
It’s actually really fun that I am making more money writing songs and performing than I am doing my day job.
The exposure I got from Americas Got Talent has allowed me to live that dream that I never thought was possible.

You served an LDS mission in New York for 18 months. How did you decide to go?
When I was 20 years old I worked at a camp for troubled teenage girls. It was a camp based on Christian values and in it we tried to help these girls help themselves by believing in Christ. Through that job, for the first time I saw the gospel work in action. I saw these girls change at camp because they realized they had worth . I grew up in a Mormon bubble and I never saw this process before.
The gospel changes people lives. Up until that point I was always glad I didn’t have to go on a mission, but then I started thinking maybe I will go. I was 20 and I prayed about it. I didn’t get a no answer—it all went so fast. Every step of the way I felt good about it still. And then all of a sudden I was at the MTC with a nametag and a companion.
 It was a great experience. It’s not right for all girls but it is an awesome, amazing, once in a lifetime experience if you do get to go.

What made you decide to come to BYU?
I actually came to BYU because I had heard they had a really good film program. I came to go into the film program originally. Also my parents came here and they had such fond memories.
I definitely knew I wanted to get out of Arizona and have an adventure.
I only applied to two schools and BYU was one of them.

Do people stop you on campus?
Yes people come up and say, ‘You probably get annoyed by this.’
But I always love it when people say they enjoyed the show and saw me. It always surprises me, Oh really you recognize me?
More and more I get stopped on campus and people ask ‘Are you the violin girl?’
What advice do you have for other aspiring artists?
I would say my advice is to take every opportunity. Because it’s through doing a lot of the free stuff in the beginning that I have had the opportunity to do really cool things.
I’ve done things like open mic nights and being a part of other artist recordings, just doing all these things.
Also, don’t give up. You are going to receive 99% rejection at first.
Just be resilient to it.
It only takes one person; only one person has to believe in you. So you have to handle the rejections and have hope.

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